Running alongside the Summer Exhibition, the RA’s A-level Summer Exhibition Online provides a showcase for talented young artists of the future. Now in its fifth year, the current exhibition attracted over 900 submissions from students across the UK.
The exhibition operates completely online – teachers register their schools, students upload their work and the final selection is made by a panel that reflects the RA’s unique position as an artist-led organisation. This year’s curators were the Royal Academician Michael Landy, RA Director of Exhibitions Kathleen Soriano and third-year RA Schools student Lucy Coggle.
As well as viewing the works in the exhibition, you can read about the thinking behind them in the students’ own words and this provides fascinating insights into the creative process.
The work is often created in direct response to an exam question. This was the case for Jack Jubb, of Bishop Luffa CE School in Chichester, who has had three works selected for the exhibition. They feature brightly coloured layered cocktails photographed against a white background, described by Jack as a “photographic re-imagining” of key works by the artist Mark Rothko, famous for his large scale abstract paintings in layers of vivid colour. We spoke to Jack to find out more.
“The exam topic was ‘the dangers of alcohol’, but I didn’t want to make something clichéd or preachy,” Jack says.
'White Centre 1950' by Jack Jubb. A Google image search for 'White Centre 1950' shows Jack's work alongside Rothko's original.
He originally planned a series of portraits of famous cultural figures famous for their alcoholism. “One was going to be Dylan Thomas, a hollow plaster sculpture of his head filled with alcohol. I’m very interested in objects and filled vessels, it’s something that I do a lot across my work. For my AS project I filled a fish tank with black ink.
“But I’d recently turned 18 and, being able to visit bars, I noticed these vividly coloured layered cocktails. I just made the mental link between those, and the Rothkos I’d seen in Tate Modern. I was already very interested in Warhol, his life and his art, and Rothko was part of the same scene. I really liked his abstract style. It was just an obvious visual link – almost brutally simple.”
Jack settled on the idea of a “darkly comic representation of both ends of the human experience of alcohol.... Taking the work of an artist destroyed by drink and re-imagining it in the form of a beverage that seems to embody the joyful excesses of carefree drinking.”
The next step was creating the drinks. Naturally, research was required: “I looked at a lot of cocktail-making blogs, but I did have to improvise to get the right effect - it would have been very expensive to buy all the different kinds of Grenadine syrups and so on, so I used a combination of soft drinks, white spirits and oils. It certainly wouldn’t be advisable to drink them!”
It was the final, photographic result that Jack felt was important, rather than the sculptural qualities of the objects themselves: “They wouldn’t work as objects in a gallery, they’re small… the photography is important because I wanted to replicate the effect of seeing a Rothko in a gallery space – the white walls.”
Jack first realised he had been selected for the exhibition when he visited the website.
“I thought that maybe I might have made it to the shortlist, so when I checked that section and realised I wasn’t there I was crestfallen. But then I found my work in the exhibition itself and I was slightly lost for words.”
Kathleen Soriano says all three judges were drawn to the "confidence, coolness and remove" that was present in Jack's work:
"Not only did he cleverly bring into play a broad range of cultural references in these three photographs, but he also managed to produce something fresh, meaningful and with its sense of humour intact. The works are striking in their simplicity, and in their clarity of image and message."
Jack is continuing his art education with an art foundation course at Brighton Community College. “I’m definitely considering it for a career. Mum’s an artist and dad is a graphic designer so it’s something of a family trade.”
You can see Jack’s work, along with that of other students selected for the exhibition and a further 72 commended in a shortlist, by visiting www.royalacademy.org.uk/alevel.